The first-ever mobile online travel guide to African-American historical and cultural sites in the Palmetto State features more than 20 sites in The Times and Democrat Region.
In total, "The Green Book of South Carolina" includes in excess of 300 sites, providing travelers glimpses into the triumphs and trials of the legacy of African-Americans in the state.
Sites ranging from those depicting South Carolina as a primary entry point for the transatlantic slave trade to those illustrating the advancement of black education in the early 20th century are part of the book, which explores the richness and complexity of African-American history in the state.
Organizers say they hope The Green Book will be an inspiring and enriching journey for readers and travelers.
The South Carolina African American Heritage Commission launched The Green Book in March 2017. It can be accessed online at www.GreenBookofSC.com. Individuals can also follow The Green Book on Twitter and Facebook @GreenBookofSC and by searching the hashtags #BlackHistoryInSC and #Top10inSC.
The Green Book is an award-winning web-based travel guide highlighting hundreds of sites with a brief narrative of its historical or cultural significance, driving directions to the site, contact information and ways to share experiences on social media.
SCAAHC Vice Chair Jannie Harriott said The Green Book grew out of the commission’s creation of a document called "African-American Historic Places in South Carolina" in the mid-1990s.
“We started that with some students from South Carolina State (University). We listed all the sites around the state that had a historical marker, or were listed on the National Register of Historic Places or were in a historic district," Harriott said. "There were only 36 at that time, but there are almost 300 today. It is a document that is organized by counties."
“Over the years, people have told us that they use that to do tours across the state. Former commission chairman Leon Love used to take the document and go around the state with his wife, and talked about creating a tour of African-American sites,” she added.
Harriot said the development of The Green Book was in homage not only to Love, but to “The Negro Motorist Green Book," which was originated and published by New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green in 1936 and continued to be printed until 1966. It is considered the nation’s first travel guide for blacks. The original guide listed safe places for blacks to travel – including hotels, restaurants and gas stations – during the segregated Jim Crow-era.
“There are no hard copies of The Green Book of South Carolina. We’re hoping that with all of the publicity we’re getting that the General Assembly will see the need for hard copies - which we get requests for all the time - and maybe give us additional funding for them,” Harriott said.
She said the book has generated both national and international interest.
“We’ve gotten tremendous response from all over the United States and France, Europe and Africa. We got an award from the International Association of Business Communicators, and have been nominated for a couple of other things,” Harriott said.
The online travel guide will give travelers, students and others a lesson about the “vast contributions” of blacks to the state.
“It’s great for people to get to see these places, but it’s even better if people know who we are, especially our children. Many don’t understand the importance of who they are. So if we could help them understand, then this creates great opportunities for teachers to do field trips as well,” Harriott said.
“We’ve had some trials, but we’ve had some triumphs as well. So it pays homage to all of that.”
'An educational tool’
SCAAHC ex-officio member Dr. Larry Watson, who teaches history at S.C. State and the University of South Carolina-Columbia, said the concept of the original Green Book was adopted for the creation of the state’s online travel guide.
“As we were identifying historically important black sites in South Carolina, we thought it would be good if people who were not familiar with those locations would have a way to identify them in case they want to stop in the state," Watson said.
“So we developed The Green Book app, which is a GPS-friendly app that allows any person who downloads the app to open up a menu and ask for places that are nearby. ... So the sites that have been identified in The Green Book become readily accessible to the traveler who’s unfamiliar with the geography of the area he’s in,” he said, noting that The Green Book could give the state’s thriving tourist industry an added boost and increase traffic within the smaller communities with sites that are featured.
Watson added, “It does have an impact on the economy in terms of travelers, but it also highlights the contributions of people of color. So it’s also an educational tool for educators. ... The value of this is hard to measure. We haven’t really maximized the argument in terms of how beneficial this is in terms of what it gives the public."
“And then it’s free. There’s no cost involved in having the app and locating the sites. From the total perspective, we’ve had tremendous response. A lot of businesses are now beginning to appreciate it … and there are a lot of people who have gone to the website daily,” he said.
The professor said the commission is doing more public outreach about The Green Book, which he said "hasn't gotten to where it needs to be, but it certainly has been well received.”
Orangeburg County is home to approximately 19 sites included in The Green Book.
“Orangeburg really does have a rich history. It’s a matter of appreciating it and making it more public,” Watson said.
Three Rosenwald Schools in the county are featured in the book. A Rosenwald School was any of the more than 5,000 schools, shops and teachers' homes in the United States that were built primarily for the education of black children in the South in the early 20th century. Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute and Julius Rosenwald, a philanthropist and president of Sears Roebuck, built the schools for black children across the South.
The Bowman and Holly Hill Rosenwald Schools, along with the Rocky Swamp Rosenwald School in Neeses, are among the sites included in The Green Book. The Great Branch School and Teacherage on Highway 4 in Orangeburg, one of the first Rosenwald schools in the state, is also featured in the book. The teacherage was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
Several Orangeburg County churches are also in the book, including Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, Shiloh African Methodist Episcopal Church, Williams Chapel AME Church, Bushy Pond Baptist Church and Trinity United Methodist Church.
Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in the small Calhoun County town of Fort Motte is also included in The Green Book. The first church built by African Americans at Fort Motte, it grew out of services held by slaves at the nearby Belleville, Goshen, Lang Syne and Oakland plantations.
Built in 1903 by African-American builder A.W. Thorne, Mt. Pisgah in Orangeburg features a sophisticated design characterized by a square plan with a prominent tower on the south corner. Other significant features include complex three-part stained glass windows and beaded board wainscoting.
Shiloh AME in Elloree had a member, Robert Lee Williams, who served as a community leader and progressive farmer. When he died at age 87, Elloree businesses closed in his memory and The New York Times said he was “generally and sincerely mourned.” The church hosted many meetings during the Civil Rights Movement seeking to desegregate local schools and businesses.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, Williams Chapel AME Church in Orangeburg represents an elegant essay in Gothic Revival architecture, with its picturesque massing and distinctive detailing attesting to the talents of architect Miller F. Whittaker, a congregation member and one of the state’s first black architects, and builder I.J. Minger.
Bushy Pond Baptist Church in Norway was organized during or just after the Civil War by black members of Willow Swamp Baptist Church, a combined congregation of whites and blacks before the war. After receiving formal dismissal letters to organize their own church, they named it Bushy Pond for the brush arbor they built nearby for their first services and for the pond nearby.
Established in 1866, Trinity UMC served as headquarters for the Orangeburg Movement during the 1960s, hosting many civil rights meetings and rallies attended by leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins and Thurgood Marshall.
Fisher’s Rexall Drugs in Orangeburg, whose lunch counter was the scene of sit-ins and protests in 1960 during segregation, is also featured.
The law office of Coblyn and Townsend in Orangeburg is another site listed in The Green Book. The building, listed as a contributing property in the Orangeburg Downtown Historic District, housed the offices of Earl W. Coblyn and Zack E. Townsend. Coblyn and Townsend were African-American lawyers who represented the plaintiffs in the Adams v. School District No. 5 case in 1964, which resulted in enforced desegregation of Orangeburg schools.
A section in the guide about the Orangeburg Cemetery at Windsor and Bull streets indicates the Orangeburg Cemetery Association purchased this land in 1888. When it was chartered in 1889, the cemetery became the first non-church-owned cemetery for African-Americans in Orangeburg. Johnson C. Whittaker, one of the first African-American cadets at West Point, is among the notables buried there.
Colleges and universities are also part of The Green Book, including Claflin and South Carolina State universities in Orangeburg and Voorhees College in Denmark.
Claflin was established in 1869 by Methodist ministers from the north who came to South Carolina as missionaries to the former slaves. Numerous graduates achieved prominence in medicine and other professional fields. Historic buildings, such as Lee Library and Tingley Memorial Hall, which were designed by pioneering black architect William Wilson Cooke, reflect the school’s development.
S.C. State was founded in 1896 as the Colored Normal, Industrial, Agricultural & Mechanical College of S.C., with its origins in the Morrill Land Grant Acts of 1862 and 1890 providing for land-grant colleges. It became S.C. State College in 1954 and S.C. State University in 1992. Students were active in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the Orangeburg Movement of 1963 and 1964 in seeking the desegregation of downtown businesses.
S.C. State holds an annual ceremony to commemorate the events known as the Orangeburg Massacre. On Feb. 8, 1968, three students were killed and 28 others were injured when S.C. Highway Patrol troopers opened fire on a crowd of protesters following three nights of escalating racial tension over efforts to desegregate the All-Star Triangle Bowl.
Constructed in 1917 as a men’s dormitory, Lowman Hall on the S.C. State campus is featured in the Green Book as the university’s oldest intact building. Lowman Hall was one of the first designs of Miller F. Whittaker, who was then on the college faculty and a pioneering black architect whose work helped set standards for students aspiring to be architects.
Voorhees College was founded by Elizabeth Evelyn Wright in 1897 as the Denmark Industrial School. It was an effort to emphasize a vocational curriculum for rural African-American students on the model of the Tuskegee Institute.
Other Orangeburg County landmarks included in the Green Book are the John Benjamin Taylor House and the Major John Hammond Fordham House in Orangeburg.
The John Benjamin Taylor House, a craftsman home built in 1903, was the residence of Rev. John Benjamin Taylor, a minister and administrator in the Methodist Episcopal Church and longtime Claflin University trustee.
The Major John Hammond Fordham House was built in 1903 for Fordham, a lawyer and prominent African-American citizen of Orangeburg. The Charleston native also served in several governmental positions after moving to Orangeburg in 1874, including coroner, postal clerk in the railway mail service and deputy collector of internal revenue.
Orangeburg’s Treadwell Street Historic District is also featured in The Green Book as an intact example of the early 20th-century middle-class African-American neighborhood. Black professionals, laborers and tradesmen lived in the area, including S.C. State professor J.A. Pierce, whose wife operated a school for black children out of their home.
The Good Hope Picnic in the town of Cameron is yet another culturally significant site that is featured. A celebration of the end of planting season, it is the oldest African-American event in the Lone Star community.
Founded in 1915 by farmers to market their produce and held on the second Friday in August, the picnic has often included games and music. Members of several black churches in and around Lone Star helped found the picnic and still support it.
'Footed in history, heritage’
Dawn Dawson-House, director of corporate communications at the state Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism and SCAAHC ex-officio member, served as lead advisor on The Green Book project.
“This is first and foremost a tourism product. It’s rooted in history and heritage, which is a huge draw in the travel community. If we had had an unlimited budget, we would have had a printed guide as well as something online, but printing a guide is still a priority for us,” Dawson-House said.
She said the project has generated a great deal of response from the African-American community, including churches.
“We have a lot of African-American churches and community organizations asking us to come present more about this guide than we’ve ever had before. When we first launched last summer, we used to get more than 2,000 unique visits per day on the guide," Dawson-House said.
“That has dropped a lot since people aren’t traveling yet. We do hope they travel during Black History Month, but we’re not in a travel season. That’s another reason why it dropped, but we also don’t have high promotions going on right now."
She said the Green Book website is still getting significant traffic and probably receives about 100 to 300 hits a week.
“We really wanted to get fliers about The Green Book into the hands of freshman families at Claflin, S.C. State and Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, but we couldn’t get that done before the summer ended. We’re still trying to do a number of things to get the word out there,” Dawson-House said.
“A lot of the sites mentioned in The Green Book are revered in their local community. We have not had a statewide look at all of these things combined together as a single compelling story. For people in Horry County to know about Atlantic Beach but not about Triangle Bowling Lanes in Orangeburg, we think that is an opportunity for growth," she said.
“We teach everybody that the entire state has under-told and under-discovered stories to tell about the African-American contributions to South Carolina."
Dr. Bobby Donaldson, a history professor at the University of South Carolina-Columbia, ex-officio member of the SCAAHC and director of the USC Center for Civil Rights History and Research, said he hopes The Green Book will drive tourism and "also be a reminder of work we have to do to document the history of sites, record the stories of people who witnessed it, develop events and educate young people about historical events and places."